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September 2015

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Tunnels and Tolls

Toronto’s Executive Committee is set to talk tolls and tunnels in the week ahead. With submissions being hear Monday we ask readers for their views. Do you believe we should bury the Gardiner Expressway? Toll the highways that Toronto residents are now paying the full cost to maintain? Please answer the survey below…
[socialpoll id=”2157172″ type=”set”]

Medically Underweight Model ‘Too Fat’ For The Industry

Everyone has insecurities about their bodies. Whether you think your nose is too big for your face, your stomach is not flat enough, your breasts aren’t large enough, there is always something to complain about when it comes to our bodies. However, unlike models, we aren’t under the scrutiny of other people around us. When 19-year-old model Agnes Hedengård made headlines after posting a video to YouTube in which she called out the industry’s body standards, the internet got to see how unattainable the standards of the model industry are.

As she stood in front of the mirror in her underwear, scrutinizing her body, Angnes reminded us a lot of ourselves. The Swedish aspiring model talked about being rejected by almost every major modeling agency because of the way she looked. Any average person will look at the video and notice the same thing; a thin, beautiful woman. Agnes is 5’11” and has a BMI of 17.5 – the lower limit of the NHS standard of healthy is 18.5. “I don’t get any more jobs since the industry thinks I’m too big,” she explains in the video, “they think my butt is too big, and they think my hips are too wide. According to the modeling industry, you cannot look like this. You need to be thinner.”

 

The video went viral. Her decision to post the video garnered even more scrutiny from internet viewers. Whether it was comments saying how beautiful she was, how empowered viewers felt after watching her the video, their disgust with the industry, and of course, comments from trolls from who insisted her lack of employment wasn’t only due to the fact that she was fat, but because she was ugly too.

Agnes has what many women crave for; a thigh gap, a flat stomach, and long legs. However, this video just goes to show that despite the seemingly diverse aspects that the modeling industry claims to have improved, there still is a lot that needs to get done. While we wait for those changes to happen, we hope that more people like Agnes shed light on the issues in the modelling industry and the challenges women face regarding their bodies on a daily basis.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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Muffin Top: A Love Story (2014)

What problems can a rich, blonde university professor residing in Malibu possibly have in her life? A lot, as Suzanne Nicholson depicted in this romantic comedy, directed by and starring; Cathryn Michon. She plays a Women’s Studies Pop Culture professor whose marriage falls apart after she fails to conceive a child. With hormone pills adding to her insecurities and body image issues, Suzanne embarks on a journey to find herself again, through thick and thin. (Literally)

The purpose behind the film was clear. A female empowering story with a reminder of ”loving yourself.” Every feminists dream, isn’t it? As Suzanne demonstrated the stress of having a muffin top, a failed marriage, and a renewed sex life, many emotions come to mind. First of all, there’s nothing like the unstable feeling of your guts overflowing out of your jeans. Wearing spanx and temporary breasts implants may seem sexy on the outside, but can cause for some embarrassing moments during late night romancing. The story will hit close to home for most women, however, it does prove to be lengthy. From a complicated love triangle to not-so-subtle messages about feminism, its a lot of information to take in under 2 hours.

The characters lacked depth. It was difficult to feel anything, despite the Michon’s attempt of getting us to ”love ourselves.” Suzanne’s husband, who so wrongly left her for a thinner, conceivable woman, was in the film for a total of 10 minutes, leaving no chance for audiences to gather the same hatred and loathing that was seen by Suzanne herself. Her various flings that took place after her split were awkward and lacked the chemistry required to effectively demonstrate her ‘sexual re-awakening.’

As for Suzzanne herself? Ugh. Girl, can she whine! Whether she’s digging in her bags for M&M’s, telling her BFF about her latest life problems, or sulking about a husband who isn’t worth the time, Suzanne was the stereotypical female that all feminists are striving to break away from. And for a female empowering film, having a more likable protagonist would have definitely sent a more transparent message. She went on to solve her problems with the help of liposuction and botox, which to the average audience – just makes her more unlikable.

Yes, it did create an interesting twist as to what feminism means to each and every individual. But it also glorified the concept of white feminism. You will notice, there are no significant characters involving women of colour in this film. It’s about problems white, rich people face and the solutions they bring from a white, rich people perspective. And with the scrutiny that white feminism is currently facing in society – this is definitely not a film that will advance the feminist movement.

Verdict: Catch Muffin Top: A Love Story on Netflix to educate yourself on the controversial subject of white feminism- just don’t expect to be moved. Great flick to have on while you’re completing that knitting project for fall, though.

4/10

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When Should We Start Work?

Monday morning or not, it’s difficult to make it into the office by 9:00 am everyday. The process of showering, making breakfast, feeding your children and the dog, all while squeezing in (or at least thinking about) an intense work out can be tough on anyone.

After the morning routine, it only makes sense to be a little winded when walking into the office at such a seemingly awful hour. Don’t let it get to you though. There’s science to back up the reason as to why you feel so tired.

An Oxford University researcher claims that starting work before 10 a.m. are ‘torture’ and a ‘serious threat’ to your physical and mental health.

Dr. Paul Kelley’s study says that before age 55, our bodies are attuned to sunlight and circadian rhythms, and we can’t be trained by routine.

The cure? Dr. Kelley recommends a start time for high school students of 10 a.m. and university students of 11 a.m. Any earlier, he says, and grades and productivity will suffer. And knowing the sleeping patterns and addictive social media habits of Generation Y, that’s definitely not a bad idea.

At a school where Dr. Kelley was headmaster, he shifted the start time to 10 a.m. and found that the top grades at the school rose by 19 per cent that year.

In the meantime, Dr. Kelley also recommends getting some sleep! There does not need need to be a study to remind us that sleep deprivation takes its toll on our bodies. Turn off your phones, switch off the lights, and get some shut eye. Einstein slept 10 hours/night and napped, too!

What sort of work hours do you hope for? Let us know in the comments below!

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The power of your purse…

Rosie

 

After a terrific summer free from make-up, pressed shirts and shoes of any sort, it’s time to get back into the daily grind. With the kids going back to school and a list of items to buy for the winter ahead, there is an app that my friend Amy Willard-Cross has created to allow people to use their purchasing power to create positive change in our communities. It’s called Buy-Up Index and shows which companies and brands support women.

The app allows shoppers to use their buying power to create positive change within our society.  The app grades companies in each industry based on 8 different criteria: The number of women on their board; employee diversity reporting; executive officers, leadership programs, maternity leave, paternity leave, philanthropy, special employee programs and supplier diversity reporting. Buy-up index uses openly available data on companies providing products to consumers. Buy –up Index allows the user to tell companies why they lost their business, and currently covers these four industries: beauty products, beverages, cell phones, household products.

There is no telling what an app like this might do to create better conditions for employees and equality for women around the globe. I encourage you to download the app and use it to send a message to corporations. Change requires that each one of us make an effort to see it through. Buy-up index is an easy way to contribute to positive change on a global level.

Still Alice (2014) : A Review

Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland in a moving performance as a happily married linguistics professor with three beautiful, grown children. Respected and successful, Alice finds her life in shambles when she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, forcing her and her family to find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her journey through her quickly deteriorating memory is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Still Alice is the perfect film for a rainy day in without the sappiness of a Nicolas Spark’s movie. But don’t tune in looking for tips of how to deal with Alzheimer’s patients. Julianne Moore may have bagged an Academy Award for her performance, but the story is a little too Hollywood to be real.The plot twist begins as Alice stumbles over the a word, which as a linguistics professor – is bound to cause some panic. Moore’s performance demonstrates the battle of dementia and the attack it has on her intelligence and independence- in the most Julianne Moore’s way possible.

Even with her inability to remember her daughters’ names, the location of her phone, or where the bathroom is, she always seems to have her loving, patient husband (Alec Baldwin) by her side at all times. Whether he’s taking her out for ice-cream, going for morning runs, or comforting her during late night panic attacks – he never seems to lose his patience. He’s the Prince Charming for any Alzheimer’s patience.

The only family problem she seems to have is her daughter’s (Kristen Stewart) decision to skip college to become a struggling actress. Meanwhile, Alice’s MacBook and iPhone are used to play memory games and puzzles while her two other beautiful children lead perfect lives. I mean, having twins – one boy and one girl – just seems too good to be true, right?

Visually, the film, shot on a lowish budget and with the look of a Lifetime Movie, is underwhelming. At times slow, other times too smooth to be about dementia, Still Alice falls a little flat and conventional given its subject matter and Moore’s searing performance. Rather lack luster, it’s predictable and ambiguous at the same time.

It’s Julianne Moore that steals the spotlight. She will have you at the edge of your seat at times, reminiscent of a psychological thriller. Other times, she will have you on the verge of tears, as you feel for her desire to have a that little extra time during the peak of her career.

Overall, this is the perfect film for a night in by yourself. There’s not much depth to the film as there is only one plot line – allowing you to tune in and out of the film. Besides, the actors and actresses are all very aesthetically pleasing.

Rating: 7/10

A flocking good book

Birding with Yeats

A Memoir by Lynn Thomson

 

Reviewed by Sarah Thomson

I sit still in the boathouse with all the windows open and listen. A huge storm hit the island this morning, the rain left large puddles on the deck, the leaves rustle as the sun pushes out, and the odd drop still falls on the roof. A man and a boy row past in a canoe. They are both shouting “row, row, row” in unison — too busy to notice the calm that has settled over the lake. A kayak rounds the corner of the island across from us. The rower dips his paddle in slowly, evenly, his motion in harmony with the calm around him – he has grace.

The book I am reading has me thinking about the way people choose to live – in harmony with the natural world, or in discord, blind to its rhythm and beauty. It is a memoir titled Birding with Yeats, written by my sister-in-law Lynn Thomson. While the title suggests that it is about birding, the book is about so much more. It encompasses her desire to shed convention and live in harmony with the natural world, and touches on the strong relationship she has built with her son, Yeats. Her book is shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award for non-fiction (https://legacy.wlu.ca/homepage.php?grp_id=2529&pv=1.

Birding with Yeats weaves Lynn’s journey through life, her challenges and successes, together with her determination to raise her son differently and break free from convention. The book includes vivid descriptions of the places they visited to bird watch, and the beauty they found along the way. To use her words, it is about “hearing the stillness and feeling the light.”

The memoir will challenge the reader to think about the way they have chosen to live. It captures Lynn’s desire to be true to her inner nature and to live by her own set of values. Her reverence for the natural world gleams through the narrative, allowing the reader to feel the same sense of awe and wonder that she discovered.

Birding with Yeats describes the strong relationship that develops between a mother and son. It tells of how Lynn and Yeats grow and learn and share in the beauty around them. She writes about how Yeats pulled her into birding. The special relationship they have is strengthened by their shared love for nature, and their desire to live their lives with grace. She describes his unique way of looking at the world and writes, “he is grounded, like his grandfather, and connected to the rhythms of the natural world.”

But the memoir also wrestles with the issue of conforming to societal standards. Lynn explains her struggle to break free from an upbringing that pushed her to be competitive, to conform and have a career. Instead of struggling to carve out and shape her future, she chose to allow life to happen — to be true to the grace inside her. Without the expectations created by social conformity, she experienced the world at her own pace, and grew to understand the value and impact that the natural world has on her.

Historians believe that people formed structured communities, towns and social conventions to protect and shelter us from the harsh realities of the natural world. Birding with Yeats will cause you to question the value of our current social structure. From tribalism, to religion, to “Kardashianism,” social structures often blind us from an intrinsic understanding of our relationship with nature. Birding with Yeats is a reminder that while society may seem to offer protection, it also numbs us to the beauty and wonder that is just beyond our next career choice.

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The vivid description in Birding with Yeats takes the reader into the moments, allowing you to feel the wind blow the “scent of saltwater to the shore.” The narrative leads the reader along beside Lynn and her son on their journey out to the marsh at Point Pelee, the pebble shores of Vancouver Island, and the forests and lakes of Muskoka. But it also touches on the calm and light they are able to find in the heart of downtownToronto. Despite the traffic and noise of the city, they venture out to natural spaces where birds and beauty survive. From Ashbridges Bay, to Toronto Island, Riverdale Farm and the Brickworks, there are places they find solace and comfort away from the concrete and steel that dominates downtown Toronto. The memoir explains how Lynn is able to balance her life as a bookseller living in the heart of the city, with her desire and need to be constantly connected to the natural world.

Lynn has shared a beautiful and unique way for a city dweller to live life in harmony with the natural world. After reading it you may find yourself looking for the stillness and light that she has beautifully captured in her memoir. Without realizing it, Lynn has shared the beauty and grace that is deep within her. I sit on this island we share and her book reminds me to be still and listen.

Thank you Lynn.

***** For a signed copy of Birding with Yeats visit/call Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay Street, Toronto,ON. 416.361.0032